Data and Forecasting
Sales forecasts are like weather forecasts: you rely on them to plan ahead, but they’re useless if not backed by accurate data. They’re also notoriously difficult to perfect. Only 45% of sales leaders are confident their organizations have accurate sales forecasts, according to a Gartner report.
That’s why at Salesforce, they’ve created a whole culture around data that allows them to make consistent, accurate forecasts. The entire Salesforce sales organization plays a role in maintaining this culture. How can you do the same in your company? Here’s a look into how a data culture can drive success now, fueled by accurate Salesforce forecasting.
Give everybody access to the data
This isn’t about equality. Everybody in your organization needs access to the data because everybody — from sales rep to executive — manages metrics that feed your forecast.
This starts at the opportunity level for the rep. Every rep reviews all the data the company has on a given prospect so they can map out the best and fastest path to close a deal. Then, they dig into the sales process.
Up a level, managers look into individual opportunity and pipeline statuses of their entire teams. They spot snags and delays, and coach reps to move deals along efficiently. The more accurate the data, the more applicable their assistance is.
Finally, leaders review the progress toward sales targets for all teams in weekly executive forecast calls. We visualize data from around the company in a single view. The question at this stage isn’t just, “How are we doing now?” but “How will things look at the end of the quarter and what can derail us?” Identifying possible hurdles to hitting our targets is key to adjusting our strategy to stay on course. When pivots are needed, they’re communicated to managers and reps, who adjust tactics accordingly.
All of this is possible because data access is open across the company — no data silos. This means everyone from reps to managers to the C-suite can focus on what’s working and what needs more work.
Make everyone accountable for keeping data up to date
Companies depend on reps, managers, and leaders to keep pipelines moving and targets on track. With these checks in place, you can ensure accurate Salesforce forecasting, adjusting as needed to address business and market changes.
But this accuracy is only possible if you collectively keep all data up to date. The entire sales process (and corresponding metrics) must be mapped and tracked in a single-view platform. In fact, Salesforce has a golden rule about this: if it isn’t in their system of record, it doesn’t exist.
Salesforce’s own process is standardized across teams and is the expectation, not a guideline. Account executives identify, create, and adjust opportunity data. Managers inspect this data, monitor pipeline changes, and add their own feedback and guidance to help close deals. Top executives then investigate trends and redirect resources based on the overall picture.
Everyone is encouraged to keep data updated in their system of record because everyone can see and hold each other accountable to it.
Yes, everybody has a different job description. But as Yan Pu, vice president of sales operations and strategy at Salesforce, notes, everyone works to keep data updated and, as a result, support the accuracy of our forecasts. “If anyone fails to do their part, forecast reviews are inefficient and inaccurate since they’re based on stale data.”
When it comes to data and forecasting, predictions need to be more accurate than the weather. Salesforce and a single source of truth for data can help.
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